Airbnb Custom URLs

Airbnb Custom URL

Airbnb hosts are starting to be told that they can employ custom URLs as Superhosts. Airbnb enables eligible hosts to take advantage of this opportunity to create an airbnb custom URL for each of their listings. However, the airbnb Superhost can create only one URL per listing and it is valid only so long as their Airbnb account is active. This also means that airbnb can remove it anytime they decide to do it.

Therefore, Airbnb’s long listing URLs that look like anonymous addresses, and do not make any impression on guests, will eventually be replaceable by ones using the airbnb.com/yourlistingname format, unless someone else has already used that particular name. This functionality was supposed to be released in the fall of 2018. As a matter of fact, that never happened, and Airbnb has still not announced an exact date. According to hosts, emails from Airbnb claim that the final release is coming soon and you can use airbnb custom URL.

Setting up your own custom URL Steps

Setting up your own custom URL is relatively easy.  Before starting the process, bear in mind that you are eligible to create only one Airbnb URL per listing. So if you have three listings, you have to make sure you choose three URLs which direct people to each listing you host.

On every listing page, you will find the following items: Amenities, Accessibility features, Title & Description, and Custom Link.

Click on Custom Link and then click on “type your link”, shown in a different color similar to the picture below. Please be aware that you only get to do this once for each listing, so you should make sure to read the terms and conditions of Airbnb Custom URL Policies in detail first.  

Alternatively, you might receive a message on your dashboard stating: Promote Listing by a Custom URL. In this case the message will guide you through the steps. 

Are Airbnb’s Custom URLs of any use?

What are the pros and cons of using Airbnb’s custom URL? Does an Airbnb’s custom URL improve your SEO?

The advocates of Airbnb’s custom URL say that it will help your listings rank higher. It looks much nicer to have a short and memorable link that can be printed on your business card. you can use it to promote your listing and direct more guests to it.

Opponents of Airbnb’s custom URL criticise some of its features.  First of all, the opportunity seems to be unreliable. The existence of this link depends on Airbnb policies; which means it can be suspended if the host loses the Superhost status, or if, for any reason, Airbnb decides to discontinue it. Similar problems have been experienced by entrepreneurs setting up a business through Facebook.  Secondly, the opportunity does not benefit all Airbnb hosts. Getting Airbnb’s custom URL is exclusive to Superhosts on Airbnb. While some plus members of Airbnb already have a custom URL, the others have to wait for the new announcement.

Finally, the custom URL does not affect ranking on search engines.  When someone clicks on a custom URL, they are simply redirected to your Airbnb listing’s main URL. There are many tutorials on setting up a domain name for your Airbnb listing, which claim to give a personalised character to your vacation rental business and you can google to find also how Airbnb URL Shortener works, but at the end of the day these  benefit Airbnb to grow.

And in reality, that’s all it does. The main advantage of using a custom URL seems to be the fact that you get a memorable link that you can share with family, friends, and regular guests. If you are looking for a memorable URL to spread around and help Airbnb strengthen their position in the marketplace and earn more in commissions, this seems to be a great way to go!

However, you may wish to consider setting up your own website to increase direct bookings of your vacation rental business instead. In this way, you will be able to charge your guests more and at the same time offer them a discount, as there’s no middle man that needs a share of the pie!

Increase your Direct Bookings.

A number of channel managers and property management systems for vacation rentals and serviced apartments also offer booking engines. Zeevou is an easy to use online platform that automates hospitality management. One of its aims is to decrease hosts’ dependency on OTAs and listing sites by driving direct bookings. Vacation rental managers setting their website up through Zeevou can use their own domain. The rich SEO tools offered help maximise the chances of showing up on top of search results. Zeevou creates a beautiful, SEO-friendly, modern website which expands visibility and increases the hosts’ profits. If you are interested in knowing more about how Zeevou can help hosts, please click on this link.

How to Collect Guest Email Addresses

Are you wondering how to collect guest email addresses? Why bother? You can message them directly through the app of the site they booked through, right? Not quite. Keep reading.

The Importance of Collecting Guest Email Addresses

Ping – a new booking has come in through Airbnb. We all love that sound. Payment taken care of. Sit back and relax until arrival date. Airbnb sorts it all out for us. How nice. Or maybe not quite? Have you ever wondered why Airbnb conceals as much as possible in way of contact details of your guests? You’re surely aware that all you get sent is a forwarding e-mail address that usually ends in “@guest.airbnb.com”. Booking.com adopts a similar trick.

While this is all done under the guise of safety and preserving anonymity, there’s probably an underlying reason. And that is the power of data. If the booking site keeps your guests’ contact details to themselves, they’re effectively not your guests. The guests will, very likely, just book through the booking site again, even if they are looking to stay at your property as a repeat guest. If you are trying to increase your direct bookings, it is imperative to start thinking about how to collect your guests’ email addresses. Once you decide to do so, the next step will be to try and automate this, so that it does not take up any of your precious time!

How to Build Up your Marketing List

OK, great. we could convince you. You’re going to take a deep breath and have a nice chat with every guest. when you go to check them in with a Meet & Greet. You could ask where they are coming from. Or perhaps, what they’re in town for, and, once you’ve made friends, what their contact details are. Except for – hang on – what if you’re a single bloke and it’s a young lady staying? That might not go down too well. And, what’s more, you actually let people check-in by themselves, so doing a Meet & Greet just for this seems like a lot of extra work…

Well, perhaps it’s best to contact them before arrival, or even at the time of booking, and just ask them for their contact details upright to collect guest email addresses. But how are you going to keep track of it all? Perhaps you could use a spreadsheet and record them there. Alternatively, you could use a Google Form and send the link out in the booking confirmation email. Why not be even smarter and sign up for a free Hubspot account so you can arrange things even more neatly in there? That way you’ll be able to easily follow up with your customers in the future. But, hang on, that makes it the third form that your guests have to fill in! Plus, Hubspot won’t tell you where or when they stayed, or how much they paid, or whether they’ll be coming back again!

Automating the Collection of Guest Email Addresses

So, is there a neat solution? The answer is, it depends on whether your channel manager or PMS can handle this for you. For example, Zeevou Book‘s unique 5-Step Booking Confirmation Process fully automates the collection of guests’ email addresses. Zeevou identifies hidden email addresses of guests in OTAs websites. While it uses the forwarding address to send the guest an initial email, the forwarding address is hidden from the guest when they are shown the details that you hold for them. There is an obligation in Zeevou for guests to provide you with their real e-mail address. It helps you to update your record. To help ensure compliance with GDPR requirements, Zeevou also enables you to collect consent for future marketing from guests, allowing them to unsubscribe from any marketing emails sent through Zeevou.

To find out more about Zeevou’s features, you can request a Free Demo by clicking here.

At What Point Do I Need a Channel Manager?

Have you recently started a hospitality business or are thinking of getting into serviced accommodation in the near future? No matter how large or small your vacation rental business, you may still be doing things manually or linking channel calendars up to each other via iCal. You may have heard of channel managers or PMSes. However, you may not be sure about why they are needed. Perhaps you’ve already done your research, but now are left with one burning question. At what point do I need a channel manager? Do I get one before starting my business? If I’m running one unit, do I wait until I have 5? Hopefully the points raised in this article will help you make up your mind.

What is a channel manager or PMS and why do I need one?

In brief, they are pieces of software which, either on their own or in conjunction with each other, allow you to automate parts of your business. They help you distribute your rates and availability to multiple OTAs or listings sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com. Some of them, like Zeevou, also provide you with a website for direct bookings and a whole host of other useful features.

Do I need a channel manager?

If you are serious about running a successful hospitality business, the question is probably not whether or not your need a channel manager, but at what stage you need one. We frequently get asked this question by people who are just starting off or who are only managing a handful of units. Of course, it is possible to do without one. Perhaps, you could even be led into thinking that you can just save the amount it would cost you each month to pay for one.

Once you start reseraching channel managers, it will soon become clear that at some point or other you probably want to start using one, the question is when. It might seem a good idea to minimise your costs as you start off and leave signing up with one until further down the line, however both in the short run and in the long run, that could end up costing you a lot more.

At what point do I need a channel manager?

We recommend you sign up for a channel manager from the word go. Yes, you can manage without one. However, there are a few reasons why you should not wait before you choose one:

1. If not now, when?

When are you going to draw the line and convince yourself to invest in your business? It’s likely to be one of the smallest investments you make, but could be one of the most rewarding ones if done right. The argument that you’ve only got one apartment doesn’t stand. Why is 2 any different than one? Or 3 any different to 2? Does anything change at 5, 10, 50, or 100? The only time there’s a marked change is when you go from 0 to 1! And if you’re thinking that it will be worth your while whenever you need a VA and can save on your VA costs by getting a software, then you’re suggesting that your time is worth less than that of a VA up to that point, which is most definitely not the case.

2. Get direct bookings from the start.

One of the aspects of your business that you need to pay sufficient attention to is getting direct bookings. Many channel managers will provide you a booking widget to add to your own website, some will even provide you a full website with an integrated booking engine. This means you’ll be able to save on commission fees. It will also help you get on the ladder of search engines immediately. The savings can far outweigh the cost of your channel manager. Make sure to ask the channel managers or PMSes that you are considering how good their direct booking website actually is. Is it SEO optimised? Does it have rich snippets built in? Can you specify your own keywords and other meta data? Are you able to run a blog off it? How about adding custom pages?

3. Keep your data clean.

The other thing that your channel manager or central reservation system (CRS) is likely to become, is your main database. It will containt all your guest data and contact information. You want to make sure that you have all your booking data in one system too. Doing so will allow you to run year-on-year reports in the future to analyse trends in your business. At the same time, you want to make sure that the channel manager you go with automates the collection of guests’ real email addresses. This will enable you to start building up your very own direct email marketing list from the word go. Check that the channel manager can also take care of GDPR opt-in/unsubscribe requirements for you.

Data migration between channel managers is extremely difficult as most providers only allow you to export a very limited amount of information if you’re trying to leave them. Hence, it is even more important to pay great attention to choosing who you decide to go with from the start. This will ensure that you can build your business on a safe base. It will give you confidence that the information that you are gathering is systematised and won’t be lost in the long-run.

How do I decide which provider is the right one for me?

If you’ve decided to start using a hospitality management software, make sure to look into every claim in detail. This way you can ensure that it does what it says on the tin the way you want it to. Check their full feature list. Try to find out how dynamic they are in releasing new features and keeping up with the times.

Figure out how much time using one is going to save you. Calculate how much you are going to be able to save in OTA commissions. Finally, look at their pricing. See if it makes sense as good value per money, rather than absolute cost. Make sure you get yourself the best channel manager out there for your needs. You don’t want to regret it further down the line! (For a full blog post on what the difference is between a PMS and a channel manager, and how to choose one, click here.)

Should you need any help in choosing a channel manager that suits your needs, drop us a line and a member of our team will be happy to guide you.

Grow your serviced accommodation business. Keep hold of your cash and spread the cost of refurbishing your Serviced Accommodation.

1. Cash is King but why not to use someone else’s money instead and grow Grow your serviced accommodation business.

As the saying goes, “Cash is King”. If your serviced accommodation business runs out of cash you can’t pay your costs , wages or bills and can’t grow youe services business accomodation, it won’t be long before you have to stop trading. When it comes to buying the goods and equipment your business needs to operate. some people still work under the policy of “if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it”, which is one way of doing things.

Another school of thought is this – why would you spend your cash reserves on refurbishing your property, when :

a)the goods depreciate rapidly, meaning the value of your assets reduces the second you pay for them.

b) you can use someone else’s money instead. 

Yes you do have to pay interest on the money you borrow, but you will keep hold of your cash which you can use to invest in other parts of your business that are going to give you a bigger return. you will have a pot of valuable cash in case of any slow periods or for a rainy day.

Here’s how it works in practice and grow your serviced accommodation business – you could either spend £50k of your cash refurbishing a property paying for furniture, kitchen goods, carpets and soft furnishings; OR you could put the refurbishment on a 5 year finance agreement, such as a Lease, Hire Purchase which isn’t secured against the property, and use the £50k cash as a deposit to buy another property with, meaning you would then double your income.

How long would you have to wait for a second property by taking the profits from just having one? Having the ability to use a separate finance facility which is not linked to the property or its mortgage, allows you to free up the cash you would have spent fitting it out, otherwise.

2. Try Alternatives and grow your serviced accommodation business.

In the last 20 years, there has been a gradual rise in the “Alternative” finance market. You may see the occasional TV advert or Facebook post but in general most of the lenders behind this movement have chosen to go under the radar. They don’t advertise in the news, radio or on TV, and they don’t spend large amount marketing on social media on the internet. This is because they have a ready-made group of people to bring business to them – Brokers.

And so why would they spend money on advertising when they don’t need to? Brokers are not directly employed by the lenders – they don’t need to have an employment contract and don’t need to be paid a pension. More and more lenders have come into the finance market in recent times and their first port of call is to announce their arrival to the broker market as they realise the benefit a broker can bring to a transaction.

They can pre-screen everything, collect the right information and deal with the customer every step of the way, whilst the lender sits and waits for all the correct information to arrive on their desk so they can come to a decision on whether to lend or not, and pay out the cash to the relevant parties, if they have given an approval.

Since the financial crisis of 2008/9, we have seen the major High Street banks pull back from lending to Small to Medium Sized Businesses (SME’s) in the UK. In some cases they are paying Challenger Banks to take customers of their hands – perhaps they became too big? There was too much risk lending to all of these SME’s for low-value assets, and for unsecured loans.

In many cases, the High Street Banks are now taking a month to come back with an answer or initial feedback on a loan application before asking for more information and coming back in another few weeks with a decline or an acceptance with onerous conditions, which is basically the Bank saying it’s a decline but they’ll do the finance if you accept something crazy – it’s a tactic used to let businesses down gently without saying a direct “No”.

Quite often the acceptance conditions make the finance “approval” completely untenable. I know this through first-hand experience, as many of my customers have been through exactly that experience. And in the main, I have benefitted from the High Street Bank’s lack of appetite with these clients. They are happy lending against Cars and Machinery, which have a decent resale value, but anything outside of that is not given much of a chance.

In the Alternative finance market there a number of specialist lenders that will finance low-value assets. They are willing to take the risk as there is a large market out there for customers looking to finance furniture, IT equipment, software, and the entire costs of a refurbishment/ fit-outs of a business premises.

The focus moves away from the asset that’s being financed, to the strength of the customer lending the money and their ability to repay the loan. This means an established SME trading for 3 years or more can get funding at reasonable rates, not too distant from the banks rates, with a decision in roughly 1 working day. That’s a far cry from the month you wait with a bank. And what’s more is the broker doesn’t charge a fee to the Business borrowing the money – we take our fee from the Lender. So it’s a win-win-win for everyone. The lender gets the loan, the broker gets paid for sourcing the loan at the best rates possible, and more importantly, the business / customer gets the finance for the refurbishment and keeps hold of its cash.

This offering can also be extended to Start-Up companies and let them grow their serviced accommodation business – those business trading between 0 and 3 year. Once you have filed 2 sets of Annual Accounts at Companies House it is generally considered that you are no longer a start-up business, in the eyes of the underwriters at least. There are however some differences – interest rates for start-ups are higher because of the perceived extra risk to lend to them – there is no trading history and therefore no historic data to base a finance decision on.

On top of this, the lenders will always ask for Personal Guarantees from the Directors, and they will need to be home-owners, to show there is some wealth sat behind them. As mentioned before, the finance is not secured against a property so just because they want the Directors to be homeowners, there is no direct link between the refurbishment finance and the Director’s properties, on the Personal Guarantee. All it states is this – should the business not be able to make the finance payments for whatever reason, the Directors will cover them with their own wealth.

The process to get a decision on the finance is a straight forward one. At first we provide our clients with a quote that can have as many options as they want – Lease, Hire Purchase or Unsecured Loan; anything up to 5 years. The goods being financed can be anything you buy for your business. If you want to go ahead and grow your serviced accommodation business, we ask for some basic financial information – generally a full set of Annual Accounts and some up-to date trading figures for the current trading year, if available.

If it’s a new start business, we will want a business plan with financial projections and maybe some bank statements. We will then write our proposal our present it to the underwriters with the best interest rates – we will always go to the lender with the lowest rates, first. If we get a decline, we can go to another lender, if it’s approved we can then write the finance agreement for you to sign. Then we will get an invoice from the supplier of the refurbishment goods – these invoices will only be paid with your authority.

The day they are paid your monthly payments begin. If it’s an unsecured loan, the cash will go directly to your business account and you will pay the suppliers yourself – but remember Unsecured Loans will always require Personal Guarantees from the Directors; whereas Lease & Hire Purchase generally don’t. This will all come down to each individual case and the financial strength of your business, and the view of the Underwriters, but it’s not a pre-requisite with a HP or Lease, like it is with an Unsecured business loan. 

If you would like to discuss financing the refurbishment of your Serviced Accommodation, Property Developments, Hotels, Offices, Pub, Café, Restaurant or any other types of business, feel free to get in touch. We have a panel of over 70 lenders to finance all types of equipment, and another panel of over 130 lenders for all forms of Property Finance.

I hope to hear from you soon

Best regards,

Billy Walker

Managing Director

Source Asset Finance Ltd

M: 07956 045421

T: 020 3816 0396

E: billy@sourcefinanceuk.com

W: www.sourcefinanceuk.com

This is a guest blog post for zeevou’s Blog.